Fall birding: Larch Mountain and the 5MR

Jacob and I recently went up to Larch Mountain to watch the sunrise and maybe see a few birds.  Success.

We heard a pygmy-owl hooting at first, and while I was off going to the bathroom Jacob heard a saw-whet.  Grr.  I never heard it.  The fog was thickening below which was pretty cool to watch.

Our county Townsend's Solitaire was hawking insects downslope, but it took off before we could get a photo.  After the sunrise we watched a Northern Harrier zip by us which gave us the idea that we should get a little higher and try some hawk-watching. 

We found a rocky slope we could scramble up, and on the scramble we watched an accipiter zoom by at eye level, then two more got in a scuffle over the next hill.  Tons of robins were flying over, plus one or two more solitaires.

Larch Mountain summit beyond the hill in front of us, Mount Hood directly behind us.  

Bad solitaire pic

 Everything seemed so promising until that awesome view turned into this:

Hmm.  The clouds and fog never cleared so the decision was made to try again on a clear day.

Round 2. 

We drove back up the same sketchy roads, climbed back up the same rocky scramble, past the pika poop to our little flat ledge.

A sharpie flew by soon after we arrived, then a flock of Western Bluebirds!

Mountain Bluebird.  (Not Western.  Thanks, Steve!)
The birds came slowly but steadily, sometimes flying directly over us and sometimes over the valley between our ridge line and Silver Star Mountain.  We had sharpies, a couple Red-taileds, and two Osprey during the first hour or so.


 Jacob was most excited when his county Merlin came flying almost straight over us.

Soon after a big flock of Band-tailed Pigeons came flying over the hill and banked south,

Portland, top right

The last raptor to fly over was a young Bald Eagle who thoroughly checked us out.

At this point I became too cold to function and we decided to climb down and back up the hill on the opposite side of where we parked.  From there we could see our little stone seats:

Chilly seats, bottom right

So we didn't see a ton of birds nor did we find anything rare, but I had never really tried hawk watching before away from a known site.  I'd call it a success!

Now back to the 5-mile Radius!  I've been thinking about it a lot lately and decided I wanted to encourage the concept a little by giving it its own Instagram!  I figure once people see how much cool stuff I can find in my own radius then they will want to try their own.  Right?  I dunno.  TBD.

Anyway, I have been birding along the river quite a bit lately, hoping for some of the random birds that can appear in fall.   A couple weeks ago I lucked into a dog flushing some birds from the beach near Wintler Park...

Oh snap, that's a Parasitic Jaeger!  I might not have noticed it if the dog hadn't flushed it into the air along with a few gulls.  Instead of flying away like I expected, it continued to circle with the gulls, gaining altitude until I lost sight of it.

Inland jaegers are the best jaegers.

Horned Grebes and Mew Gulls made their first fall appearances that morning as well.  Solid birding!

One afternoon Jacob and I went to Marine Park and he noticed a smaller duck had infiltrated the Mallard flock.  A Blue-winged Teal!

This is not a common Columbia River bird, but after looking at eBird I noticed most of the river sightings (including all the ones from Broughton Beach) are in September.  That means something but I'm not sure what.

We walked the trail to Tidewater Cove where we found a trio of ducks on the water:  two (first of fall) Lesser Scaup and a Surf Scoter!

Though it doesn't come up as rare, Surf Scoter is still a quality bird in the county.

Tidewater Cove is surrounded by million dollar condo buildings that have their own little pond which is only barely visible from the bike path.  On this day we noticed something white through the reeds.

Mute Swans!  Not countable, and kind of weird, but good to know...

And some more birds from Marine Park...

 One of three Red-breasted Sapsuckers

 Leucistic robin

 Mew Gull and friend

 Steller's Jay and acorn

White-breasted Nuthatch

5 of 56 migrating Turkey Vultures that day

The 5-mile radius has been good to me this fall!  Yay fall!  Good times!!


  1. High-fives for fall!! Love it.

  2. Wow Jen a wonderful fall birding adventure! I like the idea of the 5Mr instagram...I am always forgetting about instagram! I recent!y accidentally deleted a folder full of my trip photos but at least I have most of them on flickr..th have a great weekend weather is getting more foolish here finally.

    1. Aw accidental deletions are rough! Glad Flickr has salvaged most for you, that's one main reason I still use it. Hope all is well!

  3. Finally got my 5MR Brewer's Blackbird last weekend, huzzah! Also found a small yellow oriole (50/50 chance it was OROR, not HOOR which breed here), but could not be unidentified. Pain.

    1. Wow, what birds hang out in supermarket/strip mall parking lots if not Brewer's there? Ouch on the oriole.

    2. The paucity of BRBL in my radius is baffling. GTGR is actually easier for some reason. I guess parking lots here are an unoccupied niche. Of course, they are common in places just outside of it.

  4. Wow, some beautiful scenery, not to mention the birds!

    And yay for 5MR action! Were any of the birds in that batch new for your 5MR?

    1. Sadly none were new for the 5MR, but one was a county bird at least.


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